Website helps fine-tune your Minnesota outdoor experience

Here’s a screenshot of the new Minnesota Great Outdoors Online Tool website from my laptop. This shows all available parks and trails before any filters are applied.
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Journey vs. Destination

If you’re looking for specific amenities in your outdoor recreation, a good information source can be hard to find. Well, leave it up to Minnesota to figure out a way to help.

I’m going to draw heavily from a Minnesota State Parks and Trails fall brochure to share the new online tool, plus a lot more. In fact, I think I’ll straight away quote some of the information. It follows…

“You’re thinking of a drive to a state or regional park, but you don’t know the exact location, or if it has camping grounds, or kayaks to rent.

“Now the answer is a click away. The Minnesota Great Outdoors website provides most answers to your questions, from a map to types of rental equipment. You can use search filters of more than 184 parks and 419 trails.

“This new feature comes to you through Legacy Amendment funds, which for ten years have made improvements on public land, water, parks and trails.

“Minnesotans continue to be good stewards of state land, and the Minnesota Great Outdoors Online Tool will offer an efficient way to gather even more information on parks and trails. Happy tenth birthday, Legacy Amendment!”

Find the website at

Let’s check out the web page. Click on “Search our parks and trails” to enter the world of Minnesota outdoor discoveries!

The next page that opens has umpteen filters you can apply to your search, including eight main categories of Location; Accessible; Camping; Info/Education; Lodging; Rentals; Trails; and Water. Then, each of these has further options under it. For example, under Location, let your device use your current location, or enter a city, county or zip code. Choose parks and trails from the whole state, or within 25, 50 or 100 miles of your location.

There are 11 options under Accessible, with 14 under Camping.

I’ll list the Camping choices, so you get an idea: All camping filters (102 sites available); accessible campsite (41); backpack-in campsite (22); cart-in campsite (16); drive-in camping with electric (75); drive-in campsite (82); dump station (60); equestrian camping (20); equestrian camping with electric (3); group camping (78); RV camping (22); RV camping with pull-through sites (38); walk-in campsite (27); watercraft campsite (18); and winter camping (34).

Oh my, we have yet to check Lodging options: All lodging filters (50); accessible lodging (15); accessible yurt (3); cabin (6); camper cabin (33); group center (14); guesthouse (12); lodge (3); tipi (2); and yurt (3).

Now that you’re set up for your overnight, move on to all the recreation categories.

I find one of the very cool things about this is finding regional parks you may not otherwise know about. There are a bunch around the Twin Cities, of course, but that’s not all. As an example, you’ve heard of Quarry Hill in Rochester? Perhaps you thought it was a private facility? Get this – it’s not; it’s open to the public. Quarry Hill shows up in the search filters with its many activities.

Beyond state parks, others include Above the Falls Regional Park (RP); Baker Park Reserve; Bald Eagle – Otter Lakes RP; Barn Bluff – He Mni Can; Battle Creek RP; Baylor RP; Becklin Homestead Park; Bertram Chain of Lakes RP; Big Falls Campground; Big Falls Horse Camp; Big Marine Park Reserve; Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary; Bryant Lake RP; and Bunker Hills RP.

And that’s only looking at the “Bs!” There are a lot more places to check out than you ever dreamed! Head to the website. Get familiar with it. Make it your new, good friend.

I have one more website you really need to check this time of year. Get updates on peak fall color throughout Minnesota at Get out! Enjoy!

Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this column weekly for about 15 years.